Gnome one fights alone: Teal 4 Tirion raises nearly $200,000

Yowie Bay Public and Engadine High schools have thrown their support behind fundraising initiatives for cancer research. Linda Doherty and Pascal Adolphe report.

Two girls with shaved heads standing in front of a media banner. Two girls with shaved heads standing in front of a media banner.
Image: Yowie Bay Public students Chloe McKenzie-Matteson and Tirion Wilkinson after Chloe shaved her head live on radio.

The friendship of Year 6 Yowie Bay Public School students Chloe McKenzie-Matteson and Tirion Wilkinson has captured the nation’s attention and raised nearly $200,000 for ovarian cancer research.

The Teal 4 Tirion fundraiser was set up by Chloe after Tirion, her bestie since Year 1, was diagnosed with stage four cancer in December 2023.

“Supported by her family and medical team, Tirion has become a symbol of courage and hope, inspiring those around her to confront life’s challenges with grace and fortitude,” Chloe wrote on the fundraising page.

“Childhood ovarian cancer is extremely rare and your support to help develop testing and early diagnosis of this terrible cancer would be greatly appreciated.”

Chloe pledged to shave her hair off on 8 May, World Ovarian Cancer Day, and the cause was championed by Radio 2GB – where Chloe lost her blonde locks – and national television.

“This was always an easy decision,” Chloe said. “To support my best friend in a way that I knew I could by shaving my hair has been life-changing for both of us.”

Two girls wearing head coverings. Two girls wearing head coverings.
Image: Through their efforts, Chloe and Tirion have helped raise more than $198,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Council.

Yowie Bay Public School principal Bronwyn Jeffree said the fundraiser was initially planned for the Student Representative Council with a modest goal of $2000 for Chloe to shave her hair.

“It just grew and grew and the whole community got 100 per cent behind the girls,” she said.

“We already knew how courageous the girls are, but it’s shown them that you can take a little idea and it can achieve incredible impact. It’s also brought out so much kindness.”

The Ovarian Cancer Council has advised Chloe and Tirion the fundraiser was the single largest donation by young people in its history.

“At last count, our fundraising was above $198,000 and this has shown us that anything is possible, even by two 11-year-old girls,” Chloe said.

“We both believe that even on the darkest days, thinking of what we’ve done will make the good days even better.

“We thank everyone for their generosity and amazing motivation. We have felt hugged by the Yowie Bay and Australian community.”

Hair today, gone tomorrow at Engadine High

Engadine High School students have celebrated 10 years of supporting the Leukemia Foundation’s World Greatest Shave.

In the past decade, the school has raised $445,000 for the charity.

Engadine High has raised $56,652 in 2024, the second most by a public school in NSW. Merewether High has raised $77,655.

Every year, Engadine High students are among thousands of Australians who volunteer to shave their heads as part of the fundraiser, an event that raises money for blood cancer.

This year, the school’s fundraising efforts included a mass shaving event on 9 April.

Engadine High principal Kerrie Jones said it was the number one fundraising event for the school’s Year 12 students.

“Many of our kids grow their hair throughout high school, just to raise money and shave on stage in Year 12,” she said.

Roughly 140,000 Australian families are affected by blood cancer, a disease which takes the lives of 16 Australians every day. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian children.

Ms Jones said she was proud of the school’s students and community.

“Not just for their extraordinary fundraising but, more importantly, for their genuine attempt to raise awareness of blood cancer and cancer in general and its impact on individuals and their families,” she said. 

“Our school’s efforts go beyond the rattling of buckets and the exuberance of the big shave day. It is also about understanding the power of research money to bring about medical breakthroughs which will save lives.”

The 2024 fundraiser culminated with a school onstage shave fest on 9 April. Engadine High has raised $56,652 for the charity, the second most by a public school in NSW. Merewether High has raised $77,655 for the 2024 World’s Greatest Shave.

Engadine High Year 12 adviser Kellie Scott, who organised this year’s event, said the fundraiser served as a beacon of hope and solidarity in the school community.

“Despite the heaviness of the topic of cancer, the day is one of celebration, where we come together to find happiness in the moments of camaraderie and support for all those impacted,” Ms Scott said.

“As a student body and school community, we recognise the significant impact that cancer has on kids, parents, families, the school community, and society.

“The seriousness of the event is not lost on us, and it fuels our determination to make a meaningful difference.”

Students with shaved heads standing in a group. Students with shaved heads standing in a group.
Image: Year 12 students at Engadine High have helped raise more than $56,000 through the 2024 World's Greatest Shave.
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